Christian Olympians vs. Chinese law

Many Olympic athletes kneel to pray before or after their event, point up to heaven to give glory to God, and witness to their faith when they are interviewed. Such public displays of religion are illegal in still-communist China. Some countries are forbidding their athletes from expressing their faith to respect Chinese law. The USA is not. Read this article: In Spite of Rules, Olympic Athletes Say They Won’t Lose Faith.

Do you think the Romans 13 injunction to obey the governing authorities applies to this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.covenantacademyhouston.org/wordpress/ John

    Offhand, I’d say that the example of Daniel 6:10 is more applicable here than Romans 13.

  • http://www.covenantacademyhouston.org/wordpress/ John

    Offhand, I’d say that the example of Daniel 6:10 is more applicable here than Romans 13.

  • http://maplemountain.blogspot.com/ s.d. smith

    An inspiring story. I am encouraged by this and by President Bush’s remarks right in China’s face.

    I do not think Rom 13 really is operative, if our officials allow our athletes to express faith, they ought to do it. China hosts, but does not govern the freedoms of, our citizens who are athletes.

    If they did, it would be good reason to boycott the games and illustrate the persecution of Christians in China. Maybe we should have anyway.

    But don’t let us let them feel comfortable with their tyranny.

  • http://maplemountain.blogspot.com/ s.d. smith

    An inspiring story. I am encouraged by this and by President Bush’s remarks right in China’s face.

    I do not think Rom 13 really is operative, if our officials allow our athletes to express faith, they ought to do it. China hosts, but does not govern the freedoms of, our citizens who are athletes.

    If they did, it would be good reason to boycott the games and illustrate the persecution of Christians in China. Maybe we should have anyway.

    But don’t let us let them feel comfortable with their tyranny.

  • Larry

    It clearly does not apply:

    “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”” (Acts 5:27-32, ESV)

  • Larry

    It clearly does not apply:

    “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”” (Acts 5:27-32, ESV)

  • Larry

    I meant to add, this does not tell us if this is an *effective* witness or not.

  • Larry

    I meant to add, this does not tell us if this is an *effective* witness or not.

  • The Jones

    Romans 13 says to submit to your earthly authorities, and the U.S. is my and every American athlete’s authority. China can deal with it. If they arrest my athletes, there will be hell to pay.

  • The Jones

    Romans 13 says to submit to your earthly authorities, and the U.S. is my and every American athlete’s authority. China can deal with it. If they arrest my athletes, there will be hell to pay.

  • Patrick Kyle

    If the U.S. were to forbid public displays of faith would we be bound to obey? I think not.

  • Patrick Kyle

    If the U.S. were to forbid public displays of faith would we be bound to obey? I think not.

  • Anon

    I suspect that Samuel Rutherfuird’s _Lex, Rex_ is a better exposition of Romans 13 than say, the German Christian Movement.

  • Anon

    I suspect that Samuel Rutherfuird’s _Lex, Rex_ is a better exposition of Romans 13 than say, the German Christian Movement.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Romans 13 certainly wouldn’t prohibit athletes from doing some of the things mentioned in the article, though there might be good reasons for some of the athletes to change their habits, all the same.

    Still, the arguments here are curious. John (@1) cites Daniel as an example, without noting that Daniel was praying in his own room, not openly flouting the new decree. Indeed, I wonder if some of these athletes should consider Matthew 6:6. If the actions of the athlete merely have to do with prayer, do they need to take an external form? Can one not thank God in one’s head? Such prayers, to me, are less defensible than, say, mentioning one’s faith explicitly in an interview. If you make a ruckus, garnering negative publicity, for praying right after your event, what have you done it for? To tell people that you pray? To … some god?

    As to S.D. Smith’s statement (@2) that “China hosts, but does not govern the freedoms of, our citizens who are athletes” and The Jones’ statement (@5) that “The U.S. is my and every American athlete’s authority. China can deal with it,” are you saying that Americans are not subject to other countries’ laws? Interesting. Does that apply when their citizens are in our country as well?

    Finally, it is curious to say (@5) that “If they arrest my athletes, there will be hell to pay.” Never mind the odd use of “my”, is that really the attitude Christians should have about being persecuted for exercising their faith? The early Christians disobeyed the authorities, fully knowing and expecting to be arrested or worse. And they praised God for being considered worthy of his name. They didn’t threaten the authorities.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Romans 13 certainly wouldn’t prohibit athletes from doing some of the things mentioned in the article, though there might be good reasons for some of the athletes to change their habits, all the same.

    Still, the arguments here are curious. John (@1) cites Daniel as an example, without noting that Daniel was praying in his own room, not openly flouting the new decree. Indeed, I wonder if some of these athletes should consider Matthew 6:6. If the actions of the athlete merely have to do with prayer, do they need to take an external form? Can one not thank God in one’s head? Such prayers, to me, are less defensible than, say, mentioning one’s faith explicitly in an interview. If you make a ruckus, garnering negative publicity, for praying right after your event, what have you done it for? To tell people that you pray? To … some god?

    As to S.D. Smith’s statement (@2) that “China hosts, but does not govern the freedoms of, our citizens who are athletes” and The Jones’ statement (@5) that “The U.S. is my and every American athlete’s authority. China can deal with it,” are you saying that Americans are not subject to other countries’ laws? Interesting. Does that apply when their citizens are in our country as well?

    Finally, it is curious to say (@5) that “If they arrest my athletes, there will be hell to pay.” Never mind the odd use of “my”, is that really the attitude Christians should have about being persecuted for exercising their faith? The early Christians disobeyed the authorities, fully knowing and expecting to be arrested or worse. And they praised God for being considered worthy of his name. They didn’t threaten the authorities.

  • http://maplemountain.blogspot.com/ s.d. smith

    I want to distance myself from that S.D. guy, what a jerk.

    Just kidding. I agree that it is a little more complicated. Thanks, tODD.

    I think we should be respectful, but if the law in China is immoral we have three options, two of which are legitimate for believers. 1. Obey the law and dishonor God. 2. Honor God in humility even against the law. 3. Do not attend at all.

    Being arrogant is not an option. May I suggest the Liddell Method?

    When Eric Liddell ran in the 400 metres in the Paris Games of 1924, he did not run in the 100 metre, his stronger distance, because of his religious convictions. Just before the race, some one ran up and gave him a slip of paper. He ran with that paper in his hand and won the gold, breaking the world-record. What did the paper say?

    1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honor me I will honor.”

  • http://maplemountain.blogspot.com/ s.d. smith

    I want to distance myself from that S.D. guy, what a jerk.

    Just kidding. I agree that it is a little more complicated. Thanks, tODD.

    I think we should be respectful, but if the law in China is immoral we have three options, two of which are legitimate for believers. 1. Obey the law and dishonor God. 2. Honor God in humility even against the law. 3. Do not attend at all.

    Being arrogant is not an option. May I suggest the Liddell Method?

    When Eric Liddell ran in the 400 metres in the Paris Games of 1924, he did not run in the 100 metre, his stronger distance, because of his religious convictions. Just before the race, some one ran up and gave him a slip of paper. He ran with that paper in his hand and won the gold, breaking the world-record. What did the paper say?

    1 Samuel 2:30, “Those who honor me I will honor.”

  • http://www.covenantacademyhouston.org/wordpress/ John

    Regarding tODD’s comment on my comment, Daniel was in his own room, not in public. But he also had his window open. So while he was not making an in-your-face public demonstration, neither did he pray in secret.

  • http://www.covenantacademyhouston.org/wordpress/ John

    Regarding tODD’s comment on my comment, Daniel was in his own room, not in public. But he also had his window open. So while he was not making an in-your-face public demonstration, neither did he pray in secret.

  • Karl

    I think you could argue that China’s law would make it necessary for a Christian athlete to pray publicly in order to confess the faith.

  • Karl

    I think you could argue that China’s law would make it necessary for a Christian athlete to pray publicly in order to confess the faith.


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